Archive for January 2012

A very good friend of mine, who has been in sales for longer than I have, shared a recent story with me. We go way back – in fact we were at primary school together – and we have stayed in touch over the last 50 years (or so).

My friend represents several overseas companies in the UK in a technical and sales capacity. One of his principals was considering introducing “lean” approaches to improve efficiency. Typical of a “lean” approach is the setting of KPI’s.

They felt “efficient” meant quoting within 48 hours of a customer request. In this technical market, this can be pushing it and my friend wanted to stress that a better measurement was quotation effectiveness/conversion rate, rather than just a quick turnaround which often resulted in poor quality proposals being created. This KPI does not include any measure of the quality of the response, or conversion rate to business, the ultimate measure of effectiveness.

This is an excerpt from his response to them:

What is the purpose of a quotation?

I suggest “To provide information to the customer on the goods and services being offered against a specified requirement in such a way as to maximise the chance of winning the business, or if not successful then to leave the customer with the most positive impression of the company and it’s capabilities”

Points to consider.

A) In most cases time is the customer’s most precious asset. A quotation should have a clear logical layout, be easily understood and provide enough information for the customer to proceed with minimal additional effort to placing an order.

B) A quotation is part of the sales effort and should highlight the unique features and benefits of dealing with us. Where possible we should highlight a feature with specific relevance to the customer’s individual situation. e.g. offers of support with new product development or guarantees about in service reliability.

C) Our quotation will almost certainly be directly compared to that of our competitors. Does our quotation show us in the best light and portray us as professional and as a suitable business partner? An interesting exercise is to compare our typical quotation to our product catalogue and other printed company documents. Is the standard uniform across all documents?

D) Our quotation may well be evaluated by personnel who have little knowledge of our business and products and who may not have met any of our personnel. We need to ensure that the quotation leaves a positive impression with these people.

E) We need to give them confidence in placing an order with us. Changing suppliers may be considered a risky decision, so ambiguity is to be avoided at all costs and clarity on timing is particularly important:

e.g. “Within 3 working days of receipt of your purchase order we will issue a formal acknowledgment with the lead time. Where applicable, drawings for approval will be issued within 10 working days. On receipt of your approval the final order will entered into our production system.”

F) Points of contact. Include the names and contact numbers for all the of our people that they can discuss the quotation with and who / how to send the order to us.

G) Make the quotation easy to read and make the customer comfortable with the content. Use exactly the terminology and / or wording the client has used in their enquiry documents and address issues in the same order as they are listed in the enquiry documents.

H) Avoid ambiguity at all times. While it may seem tempting to avoid being definitive; commercially and technically clarity at an early stage can prevent misunderstandings and problems later.

I) On high value and complicated offers consider using numbered paragraphs, separate the technical and commercial content into two sections and provide an index.

Great advice and ideas on how to make your proposal easy to understand for your customer!

What suggestions do you have to share?